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Durg, Bhilai

Durg and Bhilai are adjacent constituencies. But the complexion is entirely different. While 'local' (Chhattisgarihiya) sentiments dominate Durg, Bhilai is dominated by 'other state voters'.

india Updated: Nov 28, 2003 14:54 IST

Durg and Bhilai are adjacent constituencies. But the complexion is entirely different. While 'local' (Chhattisgarihiya) sentiments dominate Durg, Bhilai is dominated by 'other state voters'. And, accordingly the political parties have worked out strategies as reflected in the candidate selection and campaigns.

In fact the BJP candidate from Durg is depending on the local plank for electoral successes. One of the slogans of the Durg BJP candidate Hemchand Yadav is "Chhattisgarihiya Sable Bhadiya". And, the slogan has several takers in the more than 40 villages and various localities in the city dominated by the local people. In contrast not a single local contestant has filed nominations from Bhilai, a constituency where voters from other state are dominant.

More than 2 lakhs of the 2,43286 electoratesin Bhilai assembly seat are residents of various other parts of the country, working in the Bhilai Steel Plant and other industries. The Bhilai constituency alone has more than 1.5 lakhs Bengali, Bihari, Malayali, Telgu and Marathi voters.

And, interestingly more than local politics these voters take interest in the politics and developments in their respective provinces.

The political stand of the more than 10,000 Telgu voters of Bhilai, traditional supporters of the Congress Party changed with the emergence of Telgu Desam in the political scenario of Andhra Pradesh. An office bearer of the Telgu Samaj said, influenced by the Telgu Desam-BJP coalition a large number of voters of their province are voting for the BJP candidates since the last two elections. And this time around BJP's national president Venkiah Naidu, who is a Telugu, has further helped the party consolidate itself amongst these voters.

Notwithstanding the efforts of the technological developments, numerous provincial television channels and direct trains, which has strengthened the provincial bonds, the provincial identity of the other state voters have eroded under the impact of a vigorous caste and communal campaigns.

Ahmed Khan, repairing cookers in the Circular Market area of Bhilai said that earlier we used to say proudly that we are all Biharis. But now we are known as Muslims, Pandits, Lodhis, Bhumihars. The BJP candidate Prem Prakash Pandey seems to be the looser of such tendencies, which may deprive him of the one sided support that he received from the majority UP Bihar voters in the two elections that he won.

The Punjabi voters seems more with the BJP than the Congress. Noted literateur Gulbir Singh Bhatial said that the Punjabis outside have not yet forgotten the anti Sikh massacre and are more inclined towards the Akalis.

Similarly, caste and communal concerns seems to have influenced the large section of the Bengali and Malayali voters, known to be the traditional communist supporters.

With the financial and other support extended by the Member of Parliament O Rajagopal, while the BJP has succeeded in penetrating amongst the Malayalam Nair community, Malayali voters belonging to the backward caste, Christian and Muslim seems to be firmly supporting the Congress. An office bearer of the Bhilai Nair Samajam said, we don't ask any of our members to vote for any particular party. However, he admitted that several Samajam members are now BJP supporters.

But this time a new conscious is also emerging. Even the upper caste Bihari voters too are disenchanted with the communal campaigns and polarisation along communal lines. Rakesh Mishra, a resident of the Camp area said that we are the ultimate victims of the various narrow-minded communal and regional frenzies.

"We are not going to be carried away by such propagandas by politicians for electoral gains," he added. VA Warrior of the Bhilai Malayala Grandhashala and Deepak Banerjeee of the Kalibadi Society sector 6 said that Malayali and Bengali voters are politically conscious and don't fell prey to the campaigns on caste and communal lines and nor do they vote in blocks.

First Published: Nov 26, 2003 18:35 IST